A. N. Devers is a writer and rare book dealer whose business, The Second Shelf, centers on all the women writers that time forgot. When she first entered the trade, she noticed that these writers were getting second shrift: sold for less money, not sold at all, and left out of the archives. Why were so many award-winning, well-reviewed books by women sliding out of print? Since rare book dealers are often the ones who shape the collections of archives and libraries—and thus the materials scholars and researchers have to work with—the Second Shelf aims to flood that pipeline with women’s work. Shift the bookshelves, and you just may shift the canon. We spoke with a number of booksellers to get a picture of the trade today, and with Devers about how she’s hoping to change it.
Go beyond the episode:
- Peruse The Second Shelf website and preorder a copy of its first quarterly
- Check out Honey & Wax Booksellers, a woman-owned enterprise founded in 2011
- Get to know Bette Howland, in A. N. Devers’s “Tale of a Forgotten Genius”
- Preorder A Public Space’s reissue of Bette Howland’s work and read its issue devoted to forgotten women writers
- The Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America has an archive of video interviews with collectors from several generations
- Read Michael Schneier, of The New York Times, who once again discovers Barbara Pym (in 2017)
- The Scholar has been lamenting neglected books since the 1950s, when the editors polled 64 “distinguished men and women” to name “that book published in the past quarter of a century that they believed to have been the most undeservedly neglected.”
Special thanks to the minds behind the Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair, which put on such a welcoming show, and to the booksellers who humored us: Rachel Furnari of Graph Books; Bryn Hoffman of Pyewacket Books; Garrett Scott, Bookseller; Jason Rovito, Bookseller; and Heather Whitney.
Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.
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Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman.
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